California risks severe ‘whiplash’ from drought to flood: scientists

FILE PHOTO: Waves crash against a sea wall in San Francisco Bay beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, December 16, 2014. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith//File Photo

By Alister Doyle

OSLO (Reuters) – California will suffer more volatile weather this century with a “whiplash” from drought to rain and mounting risks a repeat of the devastating “Great Flood” of 1862, scientists said on Monday.

Climate change, driven by man-made greenhouse gas emissions, would drive more extreme shifts between hot and dry summers and wet winters in the most populous U.S. state, they wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Global warming is making California and other regions with similar Mediterranean-style climates, from southern Europe to parts of Australia, drier and warmer in summer, said lead author Daniel Swain of the University of California, Los Angeles.

In California in winter “an opposing trend toward a strong Pacific jet stream is projected to locally enhance precipitation during the core months of the ‘rainy season’,” he told Reuters.

“Natural precipitation variability in this region is already large, and projected future whiplash increases would amplify existing swings between dry and wet years,” the authors wrote.

They projected “a 25 percent to 100 percent increase in extreme dry-to-wet precipitation events” this century.

California had its worst drought in recorded history from 2010–2016, followed by severe rains and flooding that culminated with evacuation orders for almost 200,000 residents as a precaution near the Oroville Dam last year.

The study said that major urban centers, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, were “more likely than not” to suffer a freak series of storms by 2060 similar to ones in 1861-62 that led to the “Great Flood”.

The storms swamped the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, flooding an area 300 miles (500 km) long and 20 miles wide. Storms washed away bridges, inundated mines and wrecked farms.

FILE PHOTO: 65,000 cfs of water flow through a damaged spillway on the Oroville Dam in Oroville, California, U.S., February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Max Whittaker/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: 65,000 cfs of water flow through a damaged spillway on the Oroville Dam in Oroville, California, U.S., February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Max Whittaker/File Photo

A repeat “would probably lead to considerable loss of life and economic damages approaching a trillion dollars”, the study said.

As part of planning, Swain said the state should expand use of floodplains that can be deliberately flooded to soak up rains, such as the Yolo Bypass which protects the city of Sacramento.

The study assumes, however, that global greenhouse gas emissions will keep rising, at odds with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement under which almost 200 nations agreed to cut emissions to net zero between 2050 and 2100.

“Such a future can be partially, but not completely, avoided” if the world takes tougher action, Swain said. He noted that existing government pledges to limit warming fall well short of the Paris goals.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who doubts mainstream findings that greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause of warming, plans to quit the deal, saying he wants to promote the U.S. fossil fuel industry.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Alison Williams)

Uncovered losses hurt U.S. small business in wake of 2017 storms: Fed

FILE PHOTO: The corner stone of the New York Federal Reserve Bank is seen surrounded by financial institutions in New York City, New York, U.S., March 25, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Reade Levinson

(Reuters) – Small businesses in the United States struggled with uninsured damages and lost revenue following a record-breaking year of hurricanes and wildfires, according to a Federal Reserve survey published on Tuesday.

The report by the Dallas, New York, Richmond, and San Francisco Fed banks examined 1,800 businesses with fewer than 500 employees in zip codes with disasters designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It found, 40 percent of small firms in these areas had natural-disaster related losses, and 35 percent lost more than $25,000 in revenues.

The report paints a worrisome picture for local economies after a record-breaking year of weather and climate-related disasters that cost the United States an estimated $306 billion in 2017, the third-warmest year on record, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

To see the report,  click here  .

“Small businesses are primary drivers of job growth and their ability to rebound from disasters is critical to regional economic recovery,” said Claire Kramer Mills, assistant vice president at the New York Fed.

Small businesses employ half of private-sector workers and are the primary creators of new jobs in the United States, according to a 2015 U.S. Census Bureau study.

The survey found last year’s storms hit minority communities particularly hard. Some 54 percent of Hispanic-owned firms in affected areas reported natural disaster-related losses, compared to 40 percent of White-owned firms and 35 percent of Black or African American-owned firms.

The storms hit lodging and retail businesses hardest. Some 52 percent of leisure and hospitality firms and 47 percent of retail firms in affected areas reported natural disaster-related losses, the highest shares of all industries.

Small and young businesses are especially vulnerable to extreme weather and other natural disasters compared to their larger counterparts. Financing options are limited: federal relief funds can take months to reach communities and few small business are insured against such storms.

The report found firms’ insurance holdings did not match the sources of their losses, which stemmed more from disrupted business than from damaged assets. Sixty-five percent of disaster-affected firms cited loss of power or utilities as the source of their losses. However, only 17 percent of affected firms had business disruption insurance at the time of the disaster.

Federal Reserve Bank officials who worked on the report said local governments can help bridge this insurance gap by helping business understand their vulnerabilities and purchase the relevant coverage beforehand.

(Reporting by Reade Levinson in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Nick Zieminski)

Storms unleash tornadoes in U.S. east, record snow in Midwest

Dark clouds hover above buildings amidst tornadoes in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the U.S., April 10, 2018 in this still image obtained from a social media video. Emmet Finneran/via REUTERS

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Deadly slow-moving storms generated record or near-record snowfall and low temperatures in the U.S. Midwest and tornadoes further east on Sunday, leaving airline travelers stranded and thousands without power.

In Michigan, where snowfall was expected to reach 18 inches in some areas, about 310,000 homes and businesses were without power because of an ice storm, most of them in the southeast of the state.

Large areas of Detroit were without power and customers were not expected to have it back on Sunday night, utility DTE Energy said. It was working to have 90 percent of outages restored by Tuesday, DTE spokeswoman Carly Getz said in a statement.

Cars are seen on a road during a tornado in Mountainburg, Arkansas, U.S., April 13, 2018 in this picture grab obtained from social media video. JOSHUA COLEMAN/via REUTERS

Cars are seen on a road during a tornado in Mountainburg, Arkansas, U.S., April 13, 2018 in this picture grab obtained from social media video. JOSHUA COLEMAN/via REUTERS

The weight of ice on power lines, coupled with high winds, caused more than 1,000 power lines to fall in Detroit and Wayne County, DTE said.

The worst of the snow was focused on the upper Great Lakes, with Green Bay, Wisconsin, seeing its second largest snowstorm ever after 23.2 inches fell as of Sunday afternoon, the National Weather Service said.

For the twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, the April monthly record for snowfall of 21.8 inches (55 cm) was surpassed on Saturday, the National Weather Service said.

Two tornadoes tore up trees and ripped apart homes in Greensboro and Reidsville, North Carolina, killing a motorist who was hit by a tree, according to Greensboro’s city manager, local media reported.

The storms stretched from the Gulf Coast to the Midwest and were moving into the Northeast and New England.

Record low temperatures for the date were expected in Oklahoma City on Monday at 30 degrees F (-1 C), and in Kansas City, Missouri, at 25 F (-4 C), Hurley said.

On Friday, the weather system produced 17 reports of tornadoes in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas, with four people injured and 160 buildings damaged in a possible tornado in northwest Arkansas, local media reported.

The weather was blamed for two traffic deaths in western Nebraska and Wisconsin, according to National Public Radio.

The storms also killed a one-year-old girl when a tree fell on a recreational vehicle where she was sleeping, the sheriff’s office in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, said.

By Sunday night, 1,804 flights had been canceled into or out of U.S. airports, the website flightaware.com reported, including 148 flights in or out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Andrew Hay in Taos, N.M.; Editing by Adrian Croft and Peter Cooney)

California areas advised to evacuate ahead of potential mudslides

Barren hills, which were charred by the Thomas wildfire, are seen ahead of expected rainstorms in Montecito, California, U.S. February 26, 2018. Picture taken February 26, 2018. Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire/Handout via REUTERS

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Thousands of residents in a Southern California county where 21 people died from mudslides in January were advised on Wednesday to leave their homes, ahead of a rainstorm that officials said could again trigger a cascade of mud and rocks.

The warning, which is one step below a mandatory order, affects about 30,000 people in Santa Barbara County, said Kelly Hoover, a spokeswoman for the county sheriff’s office.

“If at any time people feel threatened, take immediate action. Do not wait for a notification,” the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said in a written statement.

The latest warning covers areas along the Pacific Coast and the foothills, including the affluent communities of Montecito and Goleta. It follows criticism of Santa Barbara County officials that they did not adequately warn residents of the danger ahead of the January mudslides.

If the approaching storm is judged to be severe, Santa Barbara County officials, based on an emergency plan they are following, could bump up the recommended evacuation warning they have issued to a mandatory order about 24 hours before rains arrive.

A rainstorm is expected to bring about a third to two-thirds of an inch of rain an hour, beginning on Thursday afternoon or evening, Santa Barbara County officials said in a statement.

Precipitation early on Friday may be strong enough to trigger debris flows.

Areas below hillsides burned in recent wildfires are considered at risk, and those are the neighborhoods where officials are advising people to evacuate.

Santa Barbara County, which is about 60 miles (97 km) northwest of Los Angeles along the California coast and is home to celebrities Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and others, is still rebuilding from the January mudslides.

Some of the areas where people have been advised to leave their homes in the latest warning overlap with places hit by debris flows in January, Hoover said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Phil Berlowitz)

Insurers to pay out record $135 billion for 2017 after hurricanes

The company logo of German reinsurer Munich Re is seen before the company's annual news conference in Munich, Germany, March 16, 2016.

By Tom Sims and Alexander Hübner

FRANKFURT/MUNICH (Reuters) – Insurers will have to pay claims of around $135 billion for 2017, the most ever, following a spate of hurricanes, earthquakes and fires in North America, according to a report published on Thursday.

German reinsurer Munich Re , in its annual natural catastrophe review, also said last year’s total losses, including those not insured, were $330 billion, the second-worst in history after 2011 when an earthquake and tsunami wreaked havoc in Japan.

Although individual events could not be linked directly to climate change, global warming is playing a role, Munich Re said. It expected more frequent extreme events in future.

“We have a new normal,” said Ernst Rauch, head of Munich Re’s Corporate Climate Center, which monitors climate change risks.

“2017 was not an outlier,” he said, noting insured losses have surpassed $100 billion multiple times since 2005. “We must have on our radar the trend of new magnitudes.”

Last year’s hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in the United States and Caribbean, wildfires in California and earthquakes in Mexico destroyed homes, infrastructure and numerous lives.

The disasters also rocked global insurers. Munich Re and Hannover Re both issued profit warnings.

That dealt a blow to a sector already struggling with thin margins, stiff competition and falling prices.

Munich Re’s tally for the industry comes on the back of other estimates that underscored the severity of 2017.

In December, Swiss Re estimated global insured losses from catastrophes would hit $136 billion in 2017, the third-highest on record for the sector, with the United States hardest hit. That figure is not directly comparable to Munich Re’s estimates as it includes man-made disasters.

Reinsurers, which are in the business of insuring insurance, are experts in managing risk and rarely get caught off guard. Analysts have said reinsurers may need to take a fresh look at their risk models as the planet warms and storms become more intense.

A big question for the industry has been whether the run of catastrophes would allow them to achieve higher prices for their coverage, which have been in decline for years.

Early indications suggest modest increases. Global property reinsurance prices rose less than expected in the key Jan. 1 renewal season, with strong competition limiting increases to single digit percentages, brokers said this week.

A turnaround in prices would be the first major reversal since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

(Editing by Maria Sheahan and Mark Potter)

Christmas Travel: Winter Storm Warnings in Northeast brings White Christmas and slick travel

National Weather Service weather map for Friday, December 22nd

By Kami Klein

Christmas is the most traveled part of the year with an estimated 107.3 million travelers nationwide from December 23rd to January 1st according to the American Automobile Association. Weather conditions play a major role in getting your family where you want to be.  This Christmas weekend getting to Grandma’s house will have some challenges with a winter storm system blowing across the United States bringing a variety of weather conditions.

If you are headed anywhere in the Northeast be prepared for delays from snow and ice which will make road travel difficult and most likely cause some flight delays.  On the plus side it’s perfect weather for Santa’s sleigh!

Winter storm warnings have been posted for parts of upstate New York and northern New England.  For the rest of New England, northern Pennsylvania, New York State and much of lower Michigan, a winter weather advisory has been issued.  

Heavy rainfall and flooding in the lower Mississippi and Tennessee valleys will last into early Saturday while,low humidity and offshore winds will continue to result in elevated-to-critical fire weather conditions across southern California through at least Monday. Dry air continues to be dominant in California.  

In the Central states, lingering snow may occur from the upper Mississippi Valley into the Great Lakes. Rain and thunderstorms will be possible for the middle/lower Mississippi Valley to central Texas with some freezing drizzle/freezing rain that may occur in parts of Oklahoma.  

The West will see a new weather system arriving that will bring snow and gusty winds to the northern Rockies and Northwest which will make poor driving conditions in some areas.  Rain showers will be possible along the Interstate 5 corridor from Seattle to Portland, Oregon.  

Flight delays will be possible for the following airports for Pre-Christmas travel:  

Atlanta, Cincinnati, Boston, Memphis, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston,  St. Louis.  Portland and Seattle. New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Denver will be most affected by weather delays on Saturday evening into Sunday.  Chicago O’Hare, Cleveland and Detroit  will be on the lookout for flight delays all day on Sunday (Christmas Eve)  

Be sure to stay tuned to your local weather stations for current weather conditions, be patient and have a safe and wonderful Christmas!  

 

Sources :  http://www.weather.gov/          http://www.lohud.com/story/news/transit/2017/12/19/christmas-travel-2017/964422001/       http://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/discussions/hpcdiscussions.php?disc=pmdspd    https://www.wunderground.com/

 

 

New York lets neighborhood return to nature to guard against storms

New York lets neighborhood return to nature to guard against storms

By Peter Szekely

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Every now and then, Frank and Mary Lettieri come back to visit what used to be their tightly packed Staten Island neighborhood before Superstorm Sandy prompted New York state to let it go back to nature.

The deadly storm, which swamped the New York metropolitan area five years ago and revealed its vulnerability, convinced state officials to offer to buy out homeowners in flood-prone areas, including the Lettieris’ Oakwood Beach neighborhood.

At first, the Lettieris resisted. They had owned their nearly paid-off home since 1987, raised five children in it and spent $138,000 to rebuild after the storm sent a surge over the nearby beach that filled their first floor with seawater.

But eventually, like nearly 80 percent of their fellow Staten Island residents who were offered the same opportunity, they took the deal, part of a New York state program to convert the most vulnerable neighborhoods into uninhabited buffer zones.

“I wish we could have stayed, but we couldn’t,” said Frank, remembering a 1992 storm that also flooded them out. “The writing was on the wall. We had to go.”

Sandy, a late-season hurricane, killed at least 159 people in New York, New Jersey and other parts of the East Coast on Oct. 29, 2012, including a father and son who drowned in the basement of their home next door to the Lettieris. It damaged or destroyed more than 650,000 homes.

Much of the impetus for the home buyout program was an expectation that storms like Sandy will become more common, according to Lisa Bova-Hiatt, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery.

“To say that extreme weather is not our new normal would just be incredibly short-sighted,” she said.

Rising sea levels will increase the average number of storms that flood New York City with surges of at least 7.4 feet (2.3 m) to once every five years by 2030 from once every 500 years before 1800, according to a Rutgers University study published on Tuesday.

BUFFER ZONE

Using money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, New York has spent $255 million to buy 654 properties, mostly in Staten Island, with 83 more in the pipeline, the Office of Storm Recovery said.

“The program is voluntary,” said Bova-Hiatt. “However, at some point it would be fantastic to have the entire area as a buffer zone.”

Bova-Hiatt, herself a Staten Island resident, said the state will never use its power of eminent domain to force out the Staten Islanders who declined buyout offers for 142 properties and can no longer accept them because the program has ended.

But she declined to predict whether New York City would seize property for a planned seawall to protect 5.5 miles (8.9 km) of Staten Island’s east coast.

New Jersey also has a buyout program, having spent $110 million from the federal government to buy 520 properties in areas that were hit by Sandy-related flooding, according to the State Department of Environmental Protection.

Two residents of Staten Island’s Oakwood Beach section who declined to sell are Gregory and Olga Epshteyn. Their two-story home is among 88 that the state failed to acquire out of the 402 in the neighborhood that were eligible.

“This is the best place on Staten Island to live,” said Gregory, adding that the city still diligently provides services, such as garbage pickup and street lights.

“We love it here, but we miss our neighbors,” Olga added.

The Epshteyns’ home now has plenty of open space around it as Oakwood Beach and two other storm-ravaged sections of Staten Island return to their natural states.

Most of the bungalows, townhouses and other modest homes that lined the neighborhood’s narrow streets have been torn down and covered over with grass that the state maintains.

On a recent visit, the Lettieris, both retired, said they missed Oakwood Beach, but did not regret their decision to take the state’s offer and move to higher ground about a mile (1.6 km) away.

Former residents often come back on the anniversary of Sandy and many are expected to visit on this Sunday’s five-year mark.

Yuriy Domashov recently moved to the edge of Oakwood Beach after taking the state buyout for his oceanfront townhouse in another flood-prone area a few miles up the beach.

“For all my life I was connected to the water,” said Domashov, a veteran of the Soviet navy, as he walked his dog near the beach.

Having survived the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster and an ordeal aboard his submarine, Domashov said he does not worry about another storm of the century.

“Once in 100 years, I believe, is good enough for me,” said Domashov, who is 75.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Hurricane Irma churns through Caribbean islands, possibly en route to Florida

Hurricane Irma churns through Caribbean islands, possibly en route to Florida

By Scott Malone

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) – Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, churned across northern Caribbean islands on Wednesday with a potentially catastrophic mix of fierce winds, surf and rain, en route to a possible Florida landfall at the weekend.

Irma is expected to become the second powerful storm to thrash the U.S. mainland in as many weeks but its precise trajectory remained uncertain. Hurricane Harvey killed more than 60 people and caused damaged estimated as high as $180 billion when it hit Texas late last month.

The eye of Irma, a Category 5 storm packing winds of 185 miles per hour (295 km per hour), moved away from the island of Barbuda and toward the island of St. Martin, east of Puerto Rico, early on Wednesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami reported. It could hit Florida on Saturday.

“We are hunkered down and it is very windy … the wind is a major threat,” said Garfield Burford, the director of news at ABS TV and Radio on the island of Antigua, south of Barbuda. “So far, some roofs have been blown off.”

Men cover the windows of a car parts store in preparation for Hurricane Irma in San Juan, Puerto Rico September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

Men cover the windows of a car parts store in preparation for Hurricane Irma in San Juan, Puerto Rico September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

Most people who were on Antigua and Barbuda were without power and about 1,000 people were spending the night in shelters in Antigua, according to Burford.

“It’s very scary … most of the islands are dark so it’s a very, very frightening,” he said.

The eye of the hurricane went over Barbuda, which has a population of about 1,600 people, according to ABS radio.

“All hearts and all prayers and all minds go out to the Barbudans at this time because they experienced the full brunt,” a radio host said on the station early on Wednesday.

Public relations professional Alex Woolfall said on Twitter he was hiding underneath a concrete stairwell as the storm neared St. Maarten.

“Still thunderous sonic boom noises outside and boiling in stairwell. Can feel scream of things being hurled against building,” he said. “Okay I am now pretty terrified so can every non-believer, atheist & heretic please pray for me.”

The amount of damage and the number of casualties were not known early on Wednesday. A 75-year-old man died while preparing for the storm in Puerto Rico’s central mountains, police said.

Several other Leeward Islands, including Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic were under a hurricane warning.

“Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion,” the Hurricane Center said, warning that Irma “will bring life-threatening wind, storm surge and rainfall hazards” to those islands.

Along the beachfront of Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, work crews scrambled to cover windows with plywood and corrugated metal shutters along Avenida Ashford, a stretch of restaurants, hotels and six-story apartments.

“I am worried because this is the biggest storm we have seen here,” said Jonathan Negron, 41, as he supervised workers boarding up his souvenir shop.

Customers walk near empty shelves that are normally filled with bottles of water after Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency in preparation for Hurricane Irma, in San Juan, Puerto Rico September 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

Customers walk near empty shelves that are normally filled with bottles of water after Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency in preparation for Hurricane Irma, in San Juan, Puerto Rico September 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

The NHC said Irma ranked as one of the five most powerful Atlantic hurricanes during the past 80 years and the strongest Atlantic basin storm ever outside the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello urged the 3.4 million residents of the U.S. territory to seek refuge in one of 460 hurricane shelters in advance of the storm and later ordered police and National Guard troops to begin evacuations of flood-prone areas in the north and east of the island.

“This is something without precedent,” Rossello told a news conference.

U.S. President Donald Trump approved emergency declarations for Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, mobilizing federal disaster relief efforts, the White House said.

Authorities in the Florida Keys called for a mandatory evacuation of visitors to start at sunrise on Wednesday, and public schools throughout South Florida were ordered closed, some as early as Wednesday.

Residents of low-lying areas in densely populated Miami-Dade County were urged to move to higher ground by Wednesday as a precaution against coastal storm surges, three days before Irma was expected to make landfall in Florida.

Several tiny islands in the resort-heavy eastern Caribbean were the first in harm’s way.

Hurricane watches were in effect for Guadeloupe, Haiti, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas.

Airlines canceled flights to the region, and American Airlines added three extra flights to Miami from San Juan, St. Kitts and St. Maarten.

Residents of Texas and Louisiana were still recovering from Harvey, which struck Texas as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 25. It dumped several feet of rain, destroying thousands of homes and businesses, and displaced more than 1 million people.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Nick Macfie and Catherine Evans)

Storms disrupt Beijing flights, authorities warn of flash floods, landslides

Tourists hold umbrellas as they visit Tiananmen Square during a rainstorm in Beijing, China August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

By Josephine Mason and Shu Zhang

BEIJING (Reuters) – Thunderstorms lashed Beijing on Saturday, disrupting hundreds of flights at one of the world’s largest airports, while authorities warned that rain and wind could cause landslides in the area where a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck this week.

Beijing authorities raised their weather alert level to “orange” from “yellow” early in the afternoon, warning against lightning, hail, wind and as much as 70 mm (3 inches) of rain, threatening flash floods in mountainous areas.

By early afternoon rain subsided in some parts of the capital, but nine roads were still flooded and 171 tourist sites were shut, the official news agency Xinhua said.

At China’s busiest airport, almost 500 flights were listed as canceled from 9 a.m. until midnight and 182 were delayed, the website of Beijing Capital International Airport Co Ltd showed, urging travelers to check for flight updates.

Air China Ltd said on its Weibo social media account that about 137 of its flights in and out of the capital had been canceled by 11 a.m. (0300 GMT).

Torrential rainstorms are fairly frequent in Beijing in the summer months, often causing long delays at the airport.

One user of China’s Twitter-like Weibo said she had been stuck at the airport for eight hours waiting for a flight home.

“There are no free seats, I’m having to sit on the floor, I’m jetlagged and I’m really tired,” said the user, who goes by the handle ‘Vivian not soymilk’.

Other airports affected by the downpours included Shanghai, Nanjing in Jiangsu province, Hangzhou in Zhejiang along the Yangtze River delta.

The others were in northern regions: Shijiazhuang in Hebei, Taiyuan in Shanxi, Lanzhou in Gansu, Xining in Qinghai and Yinchuan in Ningxia.

In a statement, China’s National Meteorological Centre cautioned rescue crews working in Jiuzhaigou, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, to be on alert for landslides and lightning.

Heavy rain was expected across south-eastern China on Saturday, it said.

Widespread flooding hit two towns, Xiangbei and Xiangxi in the southern province of Hunan, Xinhua said. Rainfall across the province ranged from 100 mm (4 inches) to 200 mm (8 inches).

The extreme weather followed a tornado that struck Inner Mongolia on Friday, killing five people, injuring more than 50 and destroying homes in a major city.

(Reporting by Josephine Mason and Shu Zhang; Editing by Eric Meijer)

Two girl scouts, three other people die in storms in Poland

Two girl scouts, three other people die in storms in Poland

WARSAW (Reuters) – Five people, including two teenage girl scouts, died and more than 30 were injured as a result of falling trees in a series of severe storms that hit Poland overnight.

The girls, 13 and 14, were crushed by falling trees while sleeping in a tent when a storm hit their campground late on Friday in the Tuchola Forest in northern Poland, according to the Regional Crisis Management Team office in Gdansk.

Some 20 scouts were injured and taken to local hospitals.

Adam Kralisz, chairman of the Lodz Region of the Scouting Association of the Republic (Poland), where the scouts were from, told the private Polsat television that evacuation was ordered immediately, but conditions were horrendous.

“We had to force our way for kilometers through the forest, among falling trees,” he said.

Three other victims also died as a result of falling trees and 10 people were injured in separate incidents in Poland’s north.

More than 170,000 people were left without power and 800 buildings were damaged in storms that hit mostly Poland’s north and west, according to the Regional Crisis Management Team in Gdansk.

More storms were expected on Saturday and warnings of severe weather conditions were issued for a number of regions amid unusually high for Poland temperatures that on Friday reached 35 to 38 Celsius.

An emergency meeting of the government’s Crisis Management Team was called on Saturday and Prime Minister Beata Szydlo promised to help all those in need.

Grzegorz Nowik, head of the Scouting Association of the Republic (Poland), ordered a month of mourning for the organization.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Stephen Powell)